Dear Ms Hewitt
I am writing on behalf of the Blackpool Supporters Trust, following recent Press speculation that suggests that the FA is planning to investigate historic Tweets issued by Blackpool player Marvin Ekpiteta.
In view of the wider interest in the subject matter, this is an open letter. We will be sharing it with a range of contacts at Blackpool Football Club, the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and with members of the Football Press and others.
We should acknowledge at the outset that we understand that this is difficult territory for you. There have been opportunities in the past for the FA to take a stance on homophobia, but these have not been taken. We do understand that taking on powerful vested interests within FIFA and in the Middle East (for example) is not something that can be done easily, or lightly.
That said, if the Press speculation we have read is accurate, then we have to say that in our view Marvin Ekpiteta is an easy and convenient target.
We have noted suggestions that your interest has been piqued by revelations in a UK tabloid newspaper. If true, this in itself is disappointing. At a time when Jake Daniels has managed to inspire a warm and generous response up and down the country, we are sure that we are not alone in wondering about the motivations of the newspaper involved. The material that they have published seems calculated to foment discord between the two players in particular, and within our football club in general.
If this is claimed to be to meet a wider public interest, we are struggling to see what that public interest is. The material in question is over ten years old ; Marvin has issued a mea culpa and Jake has not only accepted that apology in good faith., but has endorsed Marvin as a valued work colleague. We are not sure therefore what purpose an investigation on these narrow grounds would serve, although we accept that it is ultimately for you to decide.
You are however the pre-eminent body managing English football and as such, in our view, you are under no obligation to conduct your enquiries merely to satisfy the prurient curiosity of the newspaper in question. We also feel that your leadership role is such that you should be shaping and leading events in matters such as this, and not merely responding to them. If an enquiry is to take place, we hope that you will be setting the terms of reference for it, rather than taking them from others.
In particular, we hope that you will:
• look carefully at what it is about the culture and working environment at Blackpool FC that gave Jake the confidence to speak out as he did
• assess to what extent there is learning and good practice to be taken from this that other clubs might usefully adapt for their own purposes
• share what you learn with the DCMS, to inform the White Paper that they are currently preparing as part of the fan led review (FLR) process
We would be the first to acknowledge the successes that the FA has had in some parts of the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) sphere. Great progress has been made on racism, and the Women’s game is now flourishing.
But homophobia remains a difficult issue, and we would suggest to you that the fact that Jake Daniels’ case has been so newsworthy, and crossed over from sport into wider social awareness, demonstrates that there is still a great deal to be done.
In that spirit, we hope that any further investigatory work you do with and at Blackpool FC is done from a listening and learning perspective, rather than a disciplinary one. We also hope that you will accept that in this instance, it is for the FA to do its fair share of the listening and the learning, and to share it as widely as possible.
Blackpool Supporters Trust